In the rehab ward at Cirencester Cottage Hospital, my mother was in a friendly bay of four women, all recovering from surgery or illness. My mother, now closer to home, was receiving more visitors and was more congenial all round. The plan was I would settle her in then go back to work. After all it was nearly a month since I had thrown all the toys out of my pram and got her admitted into hospital.
I would return every 2nd weekend to dutifully sit at my Mother’s bedside whilst she compared notes on her own progress with that of the other ladies in the room. The first time I went back, all the women in my mother’s cosy little bay had changed and sitting by the bed next door to my Mother’s was, someone who I thought looked remarkably familiar. She shot me a ‘do I, or don’t I know you?’ look, smiled and left the ward.
I moved to Jersey in 1981 and although I would return to see my mother and step-father on a fairly regular basis, I had lost touch with some of my friends. No laptop, no ipad or iPhone in those days.
My Mother, still booming, told me that the lady in the bed next to her never spoke, adding somewhat pointedly that her daughter was visiting her every day. My brain cells scrambled and delivered me a name. The saintly daughter that was visiting her mother every day was Suzie, who never stopped talking. Suzie had been one of my closest friends in 1981 and had been at my ‘leaving do’. Fortunately Suzie had only popped across the road to buy supplies at Waitrose for her mother and during a rummage around the the Lucozade shelf her memory had rebooted. She came running back into the ward with a big smile on her face and for the first time in thirty one years we gave each other a hug in the middle of the ward, much to the amusement of all the ladies.
Suzie and I would meet at our mother’s bedsides on and off for a while, reminiscing over grapes and Ribena, whilst our mother’s dosed. We still need to catch up properly over a meal and a bottle of wine, but at least we are back in touch. During the remainder of my mother’s stay in the rehab ward, I went on to reacquaint myself with various other friends and acquaintances from temps passé who were attempting to cope with their battered and bruised parents.
Being institutionalised did not suit my mother and she had many spats with the nurses. My mother couldn’t or wouldn’t sleep at night which did not endear her to the night staff. Her sleeping pattern never improved. She hated the hospital food, which was a blessing in disguise as she lost two stone, which she needed to do. The physiotherapists were fantastic. They worked my Mother hard, but she had a high regard for them and they were all incredibly caring.
My mother spent about three months in rehab before coming home and prior to her doing so, her cottage was vetted by the Occupational Therapists and various changes had to be made. A stairlift was the major investment, handrails, special aids to help getting on an off the loo and in and out if the shower.
Getting her home was a milestone, but it was just the beginning of what would be a very long, hard slog.
Next … Home Again, Home Again